A couple of album reviews...
Alex Greiner – Rags (self)
first up, Ann Arbor based singer/songwriter Alex Greiner - "Rags"
(playing The Dreamland Theatre in Ypsilanti, March 6)
And, Chicago-based viola-pop/folk muse Anni Rossi - "Rockwell" (debuting on 4AD)
Alex Greiner – Rags (self)
Ann Arbor singer/songwriter Alex Greiner weaves a hazy, spellbinding folk style on his debut EP "Rags." Six songs, some of them movements, presents a stripped down instrumentation, striking in its delivery that combines the sun plucked delicacy of coffeehouse folk-singers with the weirder, grittier coiling style of more avant-garde, or, as they're calling it these days, "freak-folk." Its brevity (clocking in at just under 15 minutes) is both ideally effectual and irksomely brief – Greiner could easily make a sprawling up-and-over-the-mountain-scoped concept album (ala D. Banhart's Cripple Crow) and his wispy vocals ("A Journey Spent in Telescope") and inventive, sinewy guitar style ("Dans") would still feel welcome by the 16th track.
The self-released "Rags" is warm and fuzzy at times with a swaying breathiness or more subtly churning with a confounding earthy-feeling electricity ("Out of Water") but also chilly and stark, like a gut-punching melancholy or a spacey falsetto that trills curving and crooked around the edges of the song ("Jumping Into Gym"). This warm-n-cozy mixed with spooky-enchantment glows most evidently in center-piece "Afrikaans," with this solemn toned guitar climbing up with Greiners unique airy creaky croon, warmed by a drawing accordion and an electric guitar that follows along, waiting its proper moment to explode, measurably, with an exertive chorus. "Shadow treat me to the show I want to see…"
Anni Rossi – Rockwell (4AD)
Anni Rossi’s viola-centric quirk-pop is a stimulating listen; wavy whirling string saws, ker-plunkety finger raps upon the wooden body, the snip-snap flitting of energetic plucks and smooth purr and warm growl and coo vocals. Rossi’s a 23-year-old mutli-instrumentalist (also on keys and a fine, fiery singing voice), classically trained since she was 3-years-old. She’s bounced from her home of Minneapolis to Los Angels and finally to Chicago, where she developed her arty, erratic, punching-pop with the recording assistance of Steve Albini, for her 4AD debut.
Here you’ll get soft swaying indie-pop endearment with subtle electro-dance sprinklings (“Ecology”), or the mix-tape ready neo-folk run of “West Coast,” (feel this viola strummed more effectively than some acoustic guitar folkies), or there’s Rossi at her best, the pop-and-lock fluidity and flamboyant stir of “Venice,” the way that aggressive viola burns down a ditch for her throaty growl to strrrrretch its way through and flood it with trilling expressivity, only to have the tempo slows to a stop to make room for this baffling bridge of heightened drama in the viola saw as Rossi charmingly (but slightly abrasively) purses her lips and makes motorboat sounds in song. Make of it what you will – it’ll find a nice home in the folk-leaning indie-pop loving crowds – but add to her endearment the fact that she before her sound got beefed up in a studio, she utilized the viola as her solitary instrument, bringing her fingers on the board or her feet upon the floor as her percussion. The viola and her voice are still the star - though the sprightly-ness of the rest of the album gets muddled in a few darker downbeat ballads.